In this study, the authors explored the associations between dental visits and unmet dental needs of children on the basis of their insurance type in the United States.
The authors used the National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 through 2014 to collect data on dental visits, unmet dental needs, and type of insurance for children aged 2 to 17 years in the United States. Unmet dental need was based on not receiving needed dental care during the past year because of financial constraints. Insurance types reported were private, Medicaid or public, other, and uninsured. The authors performed Pearson correlation coefficient analyses and used descriptive summary statistics.
The number of uninsured children decreased by 58% from 1997 through 2014 with a substantial shift from private to public insurance coverage. Regardless of type, dental insurance status was associated positively with the use of dental services and negatively associated with levels of unmet dental needs. Unmet needs in the public insurance group decreased consistently since 2009. There was a significant negative correlation (P < .05) between dental visits and unmet dental needs with respect to public insurance, whereas there was no significant correlation for private insurance.
Dental insurance played a significant role in children’s use of dental services and their level of unmet dental needs.
The shift toward the use of public insurance along with a significant association between unmet needs and dental visits support the effectiveness of publicly funded programs in facilitating the use of dental services in the United States.